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NEWS | May 7, 2014

Skill-a-Thon tests medical readiness

By Kris Patterson Naval Health Clininc Charleston Public Affairs officer

Naval Health Clinic Charleston conducted a Nurses Skills-A-Thon May 1, in an effort to keep NHCC medical professionals, as well their LowCountry Federal Health Alliance counterparts, ready for any healthcare challenge.

Medical personnel from NHCC, the 628th Medical Group and Naval Hospital Beaufort, participated in the joint training event designed for healthcare providers to brush up on their medical knowledge and improve their clinical skills performance.

"We created an environment with hands-on applications and scenarios of different levels of trauma so the participants could exercise their brain, apply their thinking skills and fill in the blanks with what they've learned from required online training," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Doke, NHCC Staff Education and Training department head, who spearheaded the event.

Nurses, Navy hospital corpsmen and Air Force medics rotated among a round-robin of interactive stations where they responded to mock clinical situations, were educated on best practices and the latest technology and were re-familiarized with specialty equipment. The stations included training in skills such as intubation and airway management, emergency medical response procedures, electrocardiography drills and medical waste disposal.

Inside the NHCC readiness lab which was equipped with a human patient simulator, or computer-operated mannequin, participants responded to scenarios similar to what they would experience in deployment hospital settings.

"The simulation of patient care at the readiness lab was very elaborate and informative," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Phipps, a hospital corpsman in Operational Management at NHCC. "I liked the fact it was hands on and gave everyone a chance to refresh skills and techniques that are not commonly used in a clinic environment."

Each station was manned by a subject matter expert who provided opportunities for participants to practice performing tasks in a risk-free environment among peers and without the pressures of testing.

Hospital Apprentice Joseph Demaria said he appreciated the guidance by more experienced staff members in a relaxed setting.

"It's nice to have a relaxed environment because when you're relaxed you tend to pick up more information without realizing it," said Demaria.

Non-medical staff members of NHCC were also invited to participate in the Skills-a-thon to get a better understanding of the day-to-day operations of healthcare providers.

"We trained on things that correlate to our clinic - things we do that people might not understand why we do them," said Doke. "If someone calls overhead, 'ERT to room so and so,' not everyone knows what that means. ERT means emergency response team. It's a big deal. If there's an emergency - if anyone goes down or if anyone passes out or something - we've got a team that takes care of that."

At the acronym station, participants were quizzed in medical short hand, which created a friendly competition to see who knew the most terminology and basic knowledge of medical emergencies.

The camaraderie and boost in morale was an added benefit of the skills-a-thon, said Sandra Walker-Halliman, 628th Medical group USAF AMC 628 MDG/SGSF who instructed the airway management station and helped Doke coordinate for Air Force participation.

"It is our goal not only as a Joint Base but as sister services to compile educational offerings for our providers, nurses and medics to reduce expenditures and increase training readiness opportunities," said Walker-Halliman. "We would like to establish continued shared training in the future."

Joint training events such as the Skills-a-thon facilitate collaboration among health clinics and allow for the different commands to optimize the use of technology and resources, said Doke.

"We didn't have to put any money toward this event," said Doke. "It just took time, effort and communication."

And an event like this offers much more than cost savings said Doke.

"I think the big picture is being ready," said Doke. "If we can save money, that's good. But we need to be ready; that's what we're supposed to do. With events like this, that's what we're going to do."